Rank in government, the military or the corporate world has its privileges. And one of them, if you rank high enough, is that you get your own private washroom, fresh towels daily and that sort of thing. And one of the things that really irks a VIP is to walk in and find an unauthorized person in the executive john.

Which is one reason the director of the Veterans Administration has a new lock on his door. And why there is now a full-time guard outside same. And why VA is planning, at a cost of around $10,000, to take out the "compromised" code system and install a key lock on the private, executive elevator that leads to the private 10th floor executive suite, which leads to the once-private executive bathroom.

It seems that last week VA Administrator Robert P. Nimmo and an aide returned to the headquarters building around 7 p.m. to catch up on some paper work. They took the private elevator up through the mostly dark building and were very, very surprised to find a member of the cleanup crew in the VIP john. VA sources say the man was not cleaning up.

Alarmed that Nimmo's quarters were so easily penetrated, VA asked the General Services Administraton to send in the locksmiths. And the practice of providing a $9.75 per hour guard, 11 hours per day to watch the executive offices, which was dropped shortly after Inauguration Day, has been reinstituted.

VA brass say the water closet intruder is not the only reason for the security clampdown. But they concede his discovery started the wheels in motion. Aides in charge of security decided that because he is a high-profile federal official running a controversial federal program, the 52-year old Nimmo (a former state senator and fiscal aide to Ronald Reagan when he was California governor) needs better protection than he was getting up until last Thursday at 6:59 p.m., when he popped in on his uninvited guest.